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Precious Film Analysis





Precious Film Analysis


“Precious” Film Analysis

“Precious” film by Lee Daniels is a 2009 drama documenting a child’s life and has to bear different kinds of challenges with physical and mental impacts. The film illustrates how poverty and abuse are significant constraints in one’s life, especially in childhood and moving along one’s life during development. The film also reflects how social work is an instrumental aspect of society and how it is vital in assisting those suffering to an extent they would not be able to manage the situation independently. As one of the award-winning films, “Precious” has fantastic insights on educating society using a reflection of what happens in real life (YouTube, 2022). This analysis explores how social work practice can effectively handle individuals’ experiences and direct them into a more stable situation.

Character Description

“Precious” is the film’s protagonist and holds the central theme worth exploring. She is a female teenage aged 16 living in New York City in the Harlem neighborhood. Precious lived with her unemployed mother, Mary, who subjected her to verbal and physical abuse for a long time. Sometimes, Precious’s father, Carl, who is absent, raped her and impregnated her twice. The family (Precious and her mother) lives in a tenement where they survive on welfare. The firstborn Mongo, whom she got through the pregnancy from her father, lives with Precious’ grandmother, although Mary forces the family to pretend to live with him to acquire more money from the government. Mongo suffers from Downs Syndrome. However, Precious’ second pregnancy forced the principal in the previous to arrange an alternative school where she could refocus on her life and have a better direction (YouTube, 2022). In this situation, she meets a social worker who understands her situation.

Biological Influences


Precious’ age is a critical aspect of her biological experiences. At 16, she is an adolescent teenager and has already undergone many experiences in her physical development. At this age, she cannot make independent decisions, a reason that could force her to give in to the sexually abusive father who slept with her severally. Again, her body is sexually active and could easily fall victim to anyone who seems to care. Her father could have used such an opportunity (Rogers, 2019). With her age, Precious needed protection mainly from her parents, who were the closest people in her life. However, this turned opposite such that the parents were the people who molested her and risked her life, especially how the father exposed her to early pregnancy.


Being a female imposes much vulnerability on Precious. Getting raped or giving in to sexual advances could lead to pregnancy at an early age. Precious became pregnant twice while in school, an issue that negatively impacted her academics (Ferraro & Shippee, 2009). This would be different if it could be a male because sexuality would not significantly affect education as he would not get pregnant.

Health and Illness

Precious has a mentally challenged child who suffers from Downs Syndrome. The disease originates from a genetic condition where three copies of chromosome 21 are produced in the affected person. Although the condition is not usually hereditary, at least 1% could originate from parental genes. The condition hurt her, considering that she was a student and demanded to bear with the situation. This could also affect her abilities. Again, Precious’ father was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which led to his death. Precious was also diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, a catastrophic situation in her life. Then, Precious was obese, as later witnessed in the film where she at looked herself into the mirror and hated the image she saw whereby instead of seeing herself, she visualized being a younger White girl.

Micro-level Systems


The family is one of the most catastrophic micro-level systems affecting Precious. All her problems started with her parents, who physically and psychologically impacted her well-being (McGoldrick et al., 2011). Precious’s father is also her children’s father, which she conceived through rape. It seems that there were several instances of rape to the teenage daughter that led to giving birth to the two children. Then, Precious’ mother frequently molests her both verbally and physically. This leaves Precious wondering who would be there to support and fight for her considering that she is still underage. Similarly, Precious negatively affected her family because she gave birth to two children, who became a burden to the family. It is a burden because the family relies on government support because her mother is unemployed and the father left them.


Precious was negatively impacted by the school environment, considering she got pregnant. Her previous school that provided the ordinary academics would rarely fit her to the extent that the principal organized an alternative school that would at least match her needs during pregnancy and postnatal period. In the ordinary school environment, Precious would always daydream and rarely concentrate on academics. The situation would also present her as a bad example to peers.


Precious grows up in a challenging neighborhood where her life is rarely protected. The apartment has many dwellings where there are shared entrances and stairways. It is generally a desolate environment, with most poor dwellers mainly expecting external support (Elliott, 2013). Precious’ life could also pose a challenge to the neighborhood and negatively influence the teenagers living there.


Despite the family exposing her to many problems, the community surrounding her, mainly in school, was supportive. The principal from the first school was considerate to the extent of proposing an alternative school that could accommodate her. Then, meeting the social worker, Ms. Weiss, was also a life-transforming opportunity as she led her in recovery. Again, the teacher in the alternative school was very supportive that she gradually learned how to read and write. A similar situation of support is witnessed with the nurse’s assistance in the facility she goes to deliver her second-born baby, Abdul. Generally, the community Precious meets is fair enough to her, especially after realizing the challenges she faced.

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Influences

Precious is a Black American, an issue that seems to impact her psychologically negatively. She frequently fantasizes about being White, light-skinned, blue-eyed, and slim. This describes a White individual perceiving that this race has a better life and attractive social identity (Shields & Behrman, 2004). In other instances, Precious fanaticizes about having a White boyfriend whom she thinks would make her satisfied and comfortable in her life. Her teenage obsessions are relatively many and sometimes hard to accomplish. The fantasies about herself and the boyfriend she wished for seem to have occurred as the society never appreciated her as they would if she were a light-skinned beautiful girl. The situation led Precious to contemplate that White girls never suffered.


As a female individual, Precious has many insecurities and vulnerabilities. Those responsible for guiding her, especially her parents, expose her to more problems (Sedillo-Hamann, 2021). She is helpless to the extent that her father was the one imposing painful experiences through rape and infecting her with HIV. Precious being a female also leads her to become a mother at an early age, demanding her responsibility beyond capacity, considering that she had two children to take care of.


Precious’ obesity is one of her main disabilities, discouraging her from being confident. She always relates herself to other slim girls, which exposes her inabilities. Being fat to Precious signifies incapacitation and ugliness that she even thinks of being unable to get a light-skinned boyfriend. Again, before going to school, Precious is illiterate, which denies her opportunities and the understanding of some life lessons, such as early pregnancies. She also gives birth to a child with Downs Syndrome, an issue that could have originated from having an affair with her father.


Based on her family background, Precious seems to have no religion. In the current society, religion plays a significant role in guiding individuals toward moral behaviors and ensuring they are upright. Lacking a religion was a risky situation such that Precious and her parents lacked an opportunity to guide them towards uprightness as required. For instance, she would understand the relationship to have with her father in that, even if she were raped for the first time, it would be easier to seek guidance from religious leaders or anyone who could guide her on the best decisions.

Macro-level Systems

Laws and Policies 

To some extent, the existing laws seem to favor precious. The Housing Act of 1937, usually known as Section 8, is fair enough to allow support for Precious and her family. The Act authorizes rent payment to private owners on behalf of low-income individuals. This is essential because it offers Precious and her family an opportunity to have shelter and suppress part of her poverty. Again, some laws guide social programs in the United States through welfare and ensure that the basic needs of every American are met. Such social programs include assistance with cash, food, housing, and subsidies (Thoits, 2010). This welfare also relieves Precious and her family from the burden of the poverty striking them.

Again, there are policies in the education system that guides the developing alternative schools that would support those with special needs. This was essential for Precious because it is where she became literate because the institution provided an environment that addressed her needs (YouTube, 2022). Also, the policies guided the establishment of social work practice where Precious met a social worker who assisted her in the traumatic journey as a teenage mother and an individual facing social injustice.

However, the existing laws and policies seemed to lack guidance and support for the vulnerable adolescents facing abuse. Even though Precious was sexually abused by her father for a long, no action was taken against him. Again, her mother’s verbal and physical abuse continued, and no actions seemed to have been taken (Long & Holle, 1997). Although there could be a reporting system, the processes used to identify the negative issues were inadequately implemented.

Programs and Benefits 

A financing program was established to ensure that the poor were provided with support. The program was very supportive to Precious’ family, considering they had no jobs. However, her mother misused the resources and got more than she expected by lying to be the one living with Precious’ firstborn. The housing program was also an essential part of what Precious and her family obtained (YouTube, 2022). All the programs provided by laws and policies were adequate to ensure that Precious lived a good life.



Poverty is one of the major stressors for Precious. Living with an unemployed mother meant that Precious could not afford everything she demanded to have a good life. Poverty is also illustrated in how her family lived through support from social welfare. To some extent, the family could not manage to live with Precious’ firstborn, such that he was taken by her grandmother (YouTube, 2022). Again, Precious being illiterate at the age of 16 meant that the mother could not afford an education.


Although Precious was underage and could not secure employment, her mother being unemployed was a problem, given that she was the breadwinner after the father left. From this unemployment situation, it was hard to afford even the basic needs to the extent that the family depended on welfare. This could also be the reason for the chain of problems Precious experienced.


Precious orientation as a Black obese adolescent imposed social biases on her. This situation led her into deep thoughts that she could hardly contemplate how her life would end up. Precious criticized herself with the perception that her stature and complexion were unattractive. As such, it seemed hard to have a light-skinned boyfriend.


Sexism imposed the gender-based problems that Precious experienced. This led her to the extent of being raped by her father. It was an illustration that the males are superior to the females. This was also the case that Precious contemplated being approached by a light-skinned boyfriend (YouTube, 2022). Indeed, it would be hard for her to be the one approaching a man for relationships.


Precious seemed to deal with racism personally. She considered herself inferior when she looked at herself and imagined how ugly it was to be a Black obese girl. Again, she contemplated how beautiful she could be if she were White and slender. This could potentially attract her favorite light-skinned boyfriend. Precious also contemplated about the less sufferings Whites were exposed to.

Violence, Trauma, and Loss

There was much violence in Precious’ life. Mary, her mother, provided a rough environment that precious never experienced peace. Raping from her father was a form of violence and the source of trauma in Precious’ life. The extent to which the father infected her with HIV was traumatizing. All this negatively impacted her social life. Then, Precious experienced a loss when her father died while she was still young (YouTube, 2022). All these engulfed Precious considering that she was the one considered to influence all the situations, even allowing her father to rape her as the mother indicated.

Coping strategies

Precious adopted overeating as one of her coping strategies, the reason she is obese. Her emotions and daydreaming are based on her life experiences. The problem with her overeating is gaining excess weight, which makes her dissatisfied with her image and desires to be slimmer to be more attractive (Carlson et al., 2012). Overeating is not an appropriate coping strategy because of the related health problems.

Then, Precious uses dissociative techniques as a coping mechanism. This mechanism involves the victim dissociating themselves from any situations or experiences that are relatively violent, painful, or traumatic. These strategies assist individuals in assimilating into their conscious selves. Precious dissociates from the reality in her life as a Black obese to fanaticize about being a slender White girl engaging with a light-skinned boyfriend (Cooper et al., 2007). These fantasies make her feel comfortable with her life, although the reality dictates otherwise. The dissociation is part of Precious tolerating adverse events that strike her life and enhance her self-image.

Again, Precious copes with the situation by distancing herself from the source of stress. For instance, she distanced herself from her father and mother, who were her major sources of stress. Distancing from the father meant no more sexual abuse while distancing from the mother meant no verbal and physical abuse.

Also, Precious decided to maintain emotionally supportive relationships. The engagements with the principal in the alternative schooling, the nursing support, and the social worker were essential for her emotional support (YouTube, 2022). The social worker led Precious into a psychological intervention that would assist her in healing and having a normal life.

Critical theories

The Critical Race Theory 

The critical race theory (CRT) explores the intersection between law, race, and society in the United States and questions the mainstream American approaches used to examine and implement social justice. Race as a social construct directly impacts individuals and society from the issues associated with their identities among other races. The underlying phenomenon connected to CRT is that race is not a natural, biological grounded aspect based on the physical distinction of individuals but it is socially constructed. As such, the phenomenon is used to exploit people of color (Ford & Airhihenbuwa, 2010). Critical race theorists indicate that racism is instituted in law and the related legal institutions in the US, and it is deployed to maintain political, economic, and social inequalities between the Whites and non-whites.

The critical race theory and its related inequalities are clearly witnessed in Precious experiences. Although her family is receiving support from the government, unemployment remains one of the significant social inequalities for the Blacks. Welfare is used to conceal this inequality, considering that most of those suffering joblessness are from minority groups. Again, from the critical race theory, precious believes that as a Black girl, she is highly disadvantaged, which could be the reason for all her sufferings. As such, she strives as much as possible to transform into a White as a method of suppressing the many problems in her life.

Intersectionality Theory 

Intersectionality theory represents an analytical framework to contemplate how different issues in a person’s political and social identities merge to form diverse discriminatory and privilege modes. According to intersectionality theory, there are multiple advantages and disadvantages, including gender, race, class, and physical appearance (Atewologun, 2018).

Precious faces all of these disadvantages, which lead to her suffering. As a female teenager, Precious is vulnerable to males, as in the case that occurred in life where the father raped her and got pregnant. In terms of race, Precious was a Black, which made her one of the minority groups (Sedillo-Hamann, 2021). She missed many opportunities, such as early schooling, which was a different issue with the Whites, whom she believed to be in a better position. Then, precious is in the lower social class, a situation described by her jobless family and depending on welfare support. Without such assistance, it seems that the family could lack even the basic needs such as shelter. Also, physical appearance is a social disadvantage for precious. Being a Black and obese individual makes Precious unattractive. She confesses to being unattractive and admiring the light-skinned individuals.

Challenges of Dealing with Precious as a Client

As a social worker dealing with Precious as a client, it is hard considering the multiple challenges she faces. That is, she has an anxiety disorder, an eating disorder; she is obese, illiterate, and has dissociative identity disorder. Handling all these problems at once is complicated. Again, the process is likely to take long, considering that they demand special care and extraordinary attention from social workers. Establishing an effective treatment plan is also complicated with precious as the client (Rogers, 2019). The processing accuracy seems hard in addressing Precious.

Again, an issue such as systematic racism would be complicated to eliminate in Precious’ case. Systematic racism revolves around society such that those around Precious as the victim would retain the same attitude toward people of color (Rogers, 2019). Although other attributes such as weight and anxiety would be alleviated, racism would not be eliminated. This would mean that the social worker would be required to go around the society and transform individuals on the necessity to maintain racial justice.

Also, despite the intervention the social worker provides during the intervention, addressing economic inequality would be impossible. Precious is among those in the lower social-economic class, and the process taken to alleviate the situation is beyond social work and the existing health intervention (McGoldrick et al., 2011). Again, financial asset building for Precious as the client requires effective strategies that the social worker may not address.

Considering that precious is both physically and emotionally challenged, it would equivalently be hard to address the issues. As such, more than one social worker with diverse specialization would be demanded to bring the necessary change. The process would also demand many resources that precious and her family may not provide. The social workers are left with the mandate to determine where they would acquire the necessary support.

Then, given that Precious is HIV positive presents a challenge because this is an issue that cannot be rectified. Such an issue demands her to be a significant part of the intervention, and if she is not strong enough, it presents impossibilities. This is from the consideration that HIV/AIDs is incurable and the negative perception from society.


“Precious” film is a good illustration of a social issue that highly demands social work intervention. Precious, as the main character, presents characteristics that an individual may not personally avoid without the necessary intervention. It is also an issue presenting the place of family in promoting social problems. This analysis illustrates the problems individuals witness with suppressed social, economic, and political backgrounds. As such, every challenge presents a particular demand for every category of victims, in the case of Precious.




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Atewologun, D. (2018). Intersectionality theory and practice. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management.

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Elliott, A. (2013). Invisible child: Girl in the shadows: Dasani’s homeless life. New York Times.

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Shields, M. K., & Behrman, R. E. (2004). Children of immigrant families: Analysis and recommendations. The future of children, 4-15.

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YouTube. (2022, May 8). Precious FULL MOVIE (2009).





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